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Integrating Health Services for Young People: Tackling the Growing Noncommunicable Disease Epidemic

This policy report, published with support from the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme, argues that integrating noncommunicable disease (NCD) services—particularly those targeted at prevention and early intervention—with other health services for young people can help tackle the growing noncommunicable disease (NCD) epidemic in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

NCDs increasingly affect people in LMICs where almost three-quarters of all global deaths from NCDs occur and where such deaths are far more likely to be premature (before the age of 70) than in high-income countries. In addition to the effects on health, premature deaths disrupt the social and financial well-being of families and hinder national economic growth and sustainable development.

To improve the response to a growing NCD epidemic, the World Health Organization promotes integrating prevention and control of NCDs into other health programs, such as those addressing sexual and reproductive health (SRH), maternal and child health (MCH), HIV/AIDS, and communicable diseases. Reaching young people with these integrated services is particularly important since they make up over a quarter of the population in LMICs and given that critical risk behaviors for NCDs—tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet—typically start early in life, during adolescence or young adulthood.

According to the report authors, Toshiko Kaneda, senior research associate, and Reshma Naik, senior policy analyst, integrating NCD services with other health services targeting young people has many potential benefits. These benefits include: reaching more young people with NCD services; pooling limited resources to gain cost and other efficiencies; reducing concerns about stigma often associated with seeking SRH and HIV/AIDS care; and providing more comprehensive health services to young people, which is essential for healthy growth and development.

The report describes the rationale for integrating NCD services into SRH, HIV/AIDS, and MCH services for young people in health care settings, explains the types of services that could be integrated, shares case studies that illustrate integrated service delivery approaches, and discusses high-level and practical recommendations for future integration efforts.

“In order to effectively advocate for change when it comes to NCD prevention for youth we need to address our gaps in knowledge and build a youth-focused evidence base,“ says Helen Seibel, associate director of Global Community Investment at AstraZeneca. “We supported the development of this report to raise awareness about the role an integrated approach can play, not only in addressing the growing NCD epidemic in many LMICs but also to help ensure that young people thrive and grow up to reach their full potential.”

The report was launched on Friday, April 28, 2017, in Chicago during the annual meeting of the Population Association of America.


From left to right: Toshiko Kaneda, the lead author of the report, with Charu Jain and Ruchi Jain from the National Council of Applied Economic Research in India, at the report launch reception at PAA

The report was funded by a grant from the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme, a disease prevention programme with a unique focus on adolescents.

See also reports on NCD risk factors among young people produced by PRB in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.